school security | security direct

Posted by John 10/12/2015

Security of School Premises

The need for a constant review of school security has been highlighted following the fatal stabbing of London Headteacher Philip Lawrence and the tragedy at Dunblane.

Schools by their nature are very different and security measures which may be appropriate for large urban schools would be unlikely to be suitable for small isolated rural schools. Some older schools may be housed in accommodation originally designed for a different purpose.  Some schools operate on split sites or on sites where there are a number of satellite buildings.

In considering the practical methods of security within schools it is necessary to consider the effect that major security measures may have on the school’s occupants. Schools should be seen by the children attending them as welcoming places and the security measures installed at a school, whilst giving comfort to the occupants of the school, should not be of such a nature as to cause alarm to its occupants. A balance therefore needs to be struck between making schools safe and turning them into fortresses. Many schools in Southampton have dual use Community facilities, either in the nature of an adjoining community building on the same or adjacent site or by the offering of out of school hours evening classes within the school buildings.

It has to be acknowledged that whatever measures are to be taken it is unrealistic to expect that the risk of a violent intruder gaining access to a school can be eliminated. All that can be done is to take measures which are reasonably practical. 

As all schools are very different, each ones needs should be looked at individually. A blanket approach to the installation of security measures in schools would involve unnecessary or inappropriate expenditure. 

The starting point for the successful management of security in a school is to carry out a security survey and risk assessment. This enables a balanced view then to be taken on the measures that should be considered in respect of an individual school.

A Security and Risk Assessment Checklist based on the checklist suggested by the DfEE (now DCFS) in the booklet ‘Improving Security in Schools’ is recommended reading.

From the various guidance issued by the DCFS, the Secondary Headteachers Association and from the comments made in the Cullen report following the Dunblane incident, it is clear that a number of relatively simple measures can be taken to increase security at schools whilst still allowing them to be used with little inconvenience by the schools’ occupants.

The measures described below take into account discussions with various Headteachers following security surveys and risk assessments already carried out by the Corporate Health and Safety Service:

Schools should have clear bilingual external signing directing all visitors to the school’s main entrance.
One entrance door (the main entrance) should be designated by the school as its main entrance for the reception of visitors. The main entrance should be clearly marked and should, where possible, be situated so that the school caretaker, school secretary or Headteacher is the first point of contact for the visitor.
All local authority employees and contractors should always report to the Headteacher before undertaking any surveys or work at the school.
The main entrance should be a door which is lockable from the inside; the lock should be a proprietary security lock.
A bell should be installed at the main entrance.
All other doors at the school should carry bilingual signs stating ‘No Admittance.  All Visitors should report to the Main Entrance’ and direction arrows should guide visitors to the main entrance.
All doors, save those doors which are fire doors, should be locked when not in use - a variety of means of unlocking doors from the inside are available from keys to turn-knobs.
When a visitor is admitted to a school, if that visitor is not known to the school he/she should be asked to provide identification and state the reason for his/her visit. If the school is satisfied that the visitor is genuine then the visitor should be asked to sign a visitors register and be given a school visitors badge.
Teachers at the school should either challenge any visitor not wearing a visitors badge or immediately report the matter to the Headteacher, pupils should be encouraged to inform their teacher if they see any stranger in the school who does not wear the schools visitors’ badge. 

Consideration should be given as to the method by which a member of staff can contact the Headteacher or outside support in the event of an incident. Different methods have been identified and some are detailed below that have found favour with those consulted:

The installation of telephone extensions in mobile or remote classrooms;
The supply of mobile phones to mobile or remote classrooms;
The installation of ‘panic buttons’ in classrooms either linked to the headteachers telephone or… ;
The issue of security pendants to all teachers and staff at the school either linked to the headteachers telephone or …;
The installation of a ‘panic button’ telephone in the school’s main office;

Schools may consider that one or a combination of the above methods suit their school.
Additional to the above there should also be considered the issues relating to access to the school site as well as to the buildings themselves. As indicated earlier the majority of schools in Southampton also represent a community resource and therefore it may be difficult to install measures which give total security to the buildings and their occupants whilst at the same time do not inhibit the community use of the buildings and the site.  Consideration should however be given, where appropriate to the school, to the following:

A review of the perimeter fencing;
A review of access to the site and the relevance of any public footpaths crossing the site;
The installation of security shutters in areas that are closed off prior to other parts of the school & also to vulnerable areas;
The lighting of all outside areas;
The installation of CCTV linked to monitors in the school;
A review of recesses and internal courtyards;
The installation of an intercom system from the main entrance door